People, I implore you. What have we allowed to happen to air travel?
I understand that airlines are a means of conveyance not unlike, say, a bus or a Conestoga wagon, but there was a time not so long ago when the major carriers prided themselves on offering their passengers something resembling an experience. The seats were roughly the same size as people and they were spaced accordingly. Food was served — not necessarily good food, but food nonetheless.
We treated the experience with similar respect. I remember taking a trip with my family around age 17, and my father made me wear a tie. Flying somewhere was special.
Not anymore. There are few things I dread more than a commercial flight. The hassle begins at the airport, of course, where an “agent” barks orders at the paying customers who are just trying to get to their flights. During a recent visit to an airport, I was greeted by a TSA agent squawking through a microphone like he was herding refugees into a detention camp: “Form orderly lines! Remove your shoes! Do not worry about your valuables, we will take care of them!” Upon stepping through the full body scanner, I was told that an agent needed to “manually clear my upper thigh area,” though I’d already been stripped of all pocket items along with my dignity. What happened next is exactly what it sounds like: Using only his hands, the agent determined that I was smuggling a penis onto the plane.
“Pre-boarding” is a joke now. Due to the inordinate number of airline mergers over the last few years (so much for antitrust laws), carriers honor multiple frequent flyer programs. Pre-boarding is open to first class, priority, executive, executive priority, frequent executive first class priority, gold and diamond flyers, silver priority, and silver priority executive diamond passengers. By the time all of the pre-boarders have boarded, there is no one left to board.
And thanks to some ridiculous accountant who decided that charging for checked baggage was a good idea, every single one of those pre-boarders has stuffed an 18 cubit foot “carry-on” into the overhead compartments. By the time a regular guy takes his comically small seat, there’s no room for his bag.
On my last flight, I was seated behind Mr. Seat Back. This is the guy who is blissfully unaware that there is no room on airlines anymore. No, because his seat can recline it must recline, right into the tiny square of space that I must occupy for the next several hours. Only this particular Mr. Seat Back wasn’t content with just flopping his head into my space. He needed to rock back and forth like he’d put a quarter into the little horsey ride in front of the grocery store, making it nearly impossible to write on the tray table attached to the back of his seat. Three hours in I grew so frustrated that I slammed my tray table shut, which somehow caused Mr. Seat Back to spill his cocktail.
I fucking hate flying. I didn’t used to, but I do now. Does anyone know when the peasant uprising is scheduled?
Anyway, songs about airlines:
“Airline to Heaven,” Wilco. The problem with an airline to heaven is that everyone would arrive so bitter and pissed off they’d be turned away at the Pearly Gates.
“Former Airline,” Wire. This track from post-punk legends Wire sounds like what flying commercial feels like.
“S&M Airlines,” NOFX. Now here’s a solution: Mask the poor service with role play.
“Airline Disaster,” The Shapes.
“Next Plane to London,” The Rose Garden. If you have to fly, London is a pretty great destination.
“New World Airlines,” Digital Analog Band.
“The Letter,” Joe Cocker. The Box Tops classic made even classic-er.
Okay, your turn: Hit me with your airline songs. It has to be better than being hit with that reclining seat in front of me.
Categories: Deep Cuts